The Boy in the Chicago Cubs Cap who Changed the World

The Boy in the Chicago Cubs Cap who Changed the World

One mother’s beloved oldest son had been getting kicked out of one school and program after another on account of his ongoing struggle with substance abuse.

And then, one day, this despairing and desperate mother saw something that filled her with hope.

This mother had noticed how, over the past several months, the boys in her neighborhood had been spending several hours a day building a fort for themselves out of boxes and pieces of discarded wood. And one morning, the municipality workers came and tore down the boys’ entire fort, and threw the boxes and wood in the garbage.

The mother anxiously prepared herself to see how upset, how broken the boys would be that afternoon when they returned home from school and discovered the destruction of their dear fort that they played in every afternoon.

But when the boys did return home from school, the mother saw something that really surprised her.

Without missing a beat the boys ran straight to the garbage bins, and started putting the fort back up. The mother challenged the boys who were already hammering away, “Don’t you know that the municipality will just tear your fort down again?! Why are you putting in so much effort…It’s all going to go to waste”

And the words that one of the boys told her never left her heart. That young boy said, “It doesn’t matter what they do. Our job is to keep on building.”

This mother thought of her own failed efforts to help her son, all of which, it appeared, had gone straight into the garbage. And she knew that her job was, also, to keep on building. And the results were not in her microscopically small hands.*
I have a friend who is a mother of 9 children. Today, 6 of her children are being treated for trauma resulting from abuse at the hands of the now infamous Nachlaot pedophile ring.

My friend is a devoted mother, a fantastic mother, a mother who would give her own life to protect her child in a heartbeat.

And throughout this whole ordeal over the past few months, I have seen this mother almost every day. While I’m sure she is struggling, strangely enough she is the one who has strengthened me throughout this crisis, and not the other way around.

I see my friend sending her boys off to cheider and yeshiva, I see her walking her younger daughter to kindergarten, I see her rushing off to work, and rushing home in time to greet her children as well as her husband when he returns home from his yeshiva with a hot meal and a shining smile.

When I saw her this morning—rushing, smiling, living—I understood for the first time the words that keep her going:

It doesn’t matter what they do. Our job is to keep on building.
Since I heard the news yesterday that Rabbi Finkel had passed away, I cannot stop thinking about what this great man accomplished.

Despite a chronic and debilitating illness that made it extremely difficult for him to speak or even move, Rabbi Finkel single-handedly ran Israel’s largest yeshiva. Before we got married, my husband spent several years’ worth of afternoons learning at the Mir. And he remembers how Rabbi Finkel ran this institution almost single-handedly, to the extent that he even personally handed out the monthly checks with a kind word and a smile to every Kollel student.

When young Natie Finkel first arrived at the Mir in the 1960s, he was an All-American boy wearing a Chicago Cubs baseball cap and barely knowing a word of Yiddish, the lingua franca of the Mir. At that point, less than 20 years had passed since the vast majority of Torah-observant Jewry and rabbinic leadership were wiped from the face of the earth during the Shoah.

Rabbi Finkel zt"l's yearbook photo. He was student council president. Ambition: Undecided.

The future of Orthodox Judaism and Torah learning looked bleak, nearly hopeless.

Who would have ever guessed that today, less than 70 years after the end of the Shoah, the amount of people engaged in Torah learning would far surpass the numbers before the War?

Over the last several decades, Torah learning has grown from a match flickering in the wind to a veritable Sun providing light for the Jewish people and the entire world.

And for this, in large part, we need to thank a young, idealistic Chicago Cubs fan named Natie who had a heartfelt belief that ended up changing the course of Jewish history.

He believed, like so many great Jews throughout history, that it really doesn’t matter what they do. Our job is to keep on building.

Photo by Yehuda Boltshauser courtesy of
Yearbook image reprinted from Emes v’Emuna
*Based on a true story featured on the Chazak Hotline.

One comment

  1. Hadassah Aber

    This article is put together very well and is very inspiring. We can all learn a great lesson to keep on going in the face of adversity.

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